Concord of the Reborn (pt. 9)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


“We’re out of time, let’s get out of here,” Telfor announces as the echoing knock fades.

“No, I’ve nearly got this!” Laurin answers, still intently focused on the desk lock.

The same moment this quick exchange takes place, Diatter screams unintelligibly. The cry is quickly cut off as Jasha buries her knee into his guts and shoves a bunched up cloth into his mouth. The damage may have been done already, the polite knocking is replaced by a pounding, and muffled voices.

“Blood of all! Jasha, get Diatter to Vahkragg and get ready to escape out the back.”

Jasha gets moving, and Telfor turns to Laurin again, “Diatter’s co-conspirator’s are due, that’ll be them at the door. We need to leave. Now. Sooner.”

“Then go, I’ll catch up,” Laurin hisses back, his face a mask of absolute focus, “If there’s a chance Frey’s location’s in here I’m not going to miss it.”

Sara’s face intrudes in Telfor’s mind. In the same position he wouldn’t do any different. Upstairs the pounding and shouting has stopped, likely they were going to get the guard. That gives them maybe a couple of minutes.
This thought is interrupted by the sound of a heavy impact on wood. They must have their own temple soldiers with them, or are confident enough in their own ability. Looking back at Laurin, Telfor considers his options and liking none of them rushes up the stairs towards the door.
Now there he finds Vahkragg barring the door, the thick wood splintering under the opposing forces visited upon it.

“Where’s Laurin?” Jasha’s voice from behind him.

“He’s nearly done, we’re going to buy him the time to find his niece.”

Without a word, Jasha drops Diatter and draws her shield and short sword. Following her lead, Telfor does the same and falls in beside her so their shields cover the whole corridor.
Another thunderous blow strikes the door, and Vahkragg’s enormous form slides back and a long crack opens across the wood.

“Fall back, Vahkragg.”

Releasing the door, the plainsman steps back down the hall. They make room for him to pass behind then reform just when the door explodes open, shards flying off and bouncing off their shields.
Two figures rush through the exploding door. Their speed enhanced by magic, somehow without having been drawn from the ether. Jasha and Telfor are taken off guard, the collision as the figures ram into them drive them back sliding several feet. The driving force relents as Vahkragg’s pole-axe thrusts over the shields forcing the figures to dash backwards.
In the moment’s reprieve Jasha draws magic from the air and weaving it into her muscles. Telfor studies their opponents. Two figures robed in black with shaved bald heads and masked faces. They certainly fit the part of acolytes of Anir, but beyond that he doesn’t know anything more about who they could be.

“Laurin!” Telfor shouts.

He should have had more than enough time to do that. But in the barest fragment of a moment his focus is split between his foes and Laurin, the figures leap forward again with deadly alacrity.
Jasha has the focus to thrust with her blade, forcing one of the two to halt their charge to avoid being skewed. The other, however, levels and thunderous kick into Telfor’s shield. Like the door before it, Telfor’s shield buckles, only the give in his arm stopping it from shattering into pieces. Numbing pain runs up his arm and join with Jasha’s shield separates somewhat.

“Damn it! Focus!” Jasha shouts.

Vahkragg’s weapon thrusts again. The figure attacking Telfor sidesteps to evade the strike, giving him the moment to recover before he could be overrun.
Whoever these figures are, they’re well trained. Without their formation and numbers they wouldn’t stand a chance against the assailants. Even if Laurin made it here, they wouldn’t have an opening to escape until their attackers were dead.
Thanking the Corpse God for the terrain, Telfor joins Jasha’s tempo in thrusting his blade in a fashion to ward off the tireless onslaught. The skirmish stretches out, lasting almost a minute though to Telfor’s exhausted and sore shield arm it feels far longer.
Footsteps from the cellar announce Laurin’s return.

“Get Diatter,” Telfor orders, “We’re leaving through the back”

The formation starts slowly backing up, continuing to hold the line. Sweat runs down Telfor’s face, his breathing heavy. Their assailants growing more recklessly determined with his command, redouble their assault.
Then it happens. The first figure overextends, seeing his chance Telfor lunges and his blade barely fails to impale it’s target delivering a deep gouge along their chest, instantly reddening the black cloth.
His weariness is deeper than he realises and he realises too late his shield arm has fallen. A crushing blow connects with the side of his head above the shield and he loses his awareness space and crumples.
Through the fog in his head, Telfor hears the sound of shouting and fighting. Clawing his way back to his sense, he comes to in the alley behind the house being supported by Vahkragg who has Diatter under the other arm. Laurin has Jasha on his shoulder, she seems aware but pale and weak looking. Running still, they are being led by Laurin in the direction of the slums.
Feeling capable again, Telfor releases himself from Vahkragg’s hold.

“What happened?”

Jasha croaks, her voice dry like in the depths of a fever, “You fell for their bluff. They must have been desperate because that one let you cut them so the other could knock you out. Fool underestimated me, I got you back. Burned myself out though, and they escaped rather than fight these two while bleeding out.”

Holding up their flight for the moment, Telfor taking over from Laurin lifts his wife off the ground.

“Where are we?”

“Slum route,” Laurin answers as they return to running, “Can’t risk the central districts covered in blood with a priest in chains.”

They pass through the small unmanned opening in the city walls that separates the slums from the city proper. The omnipresent lights of the city left behind them. Before them, the massive sprawling expanse of the slums where the innumerable unfortunate souls of Capital accumulate, hungrily takes them.


More fighting and magic! It’s been a while since we’ve had any of those. Our heroes held their own this time even coming out slightly ahead, though they did have the advantage of numbers and terrain. Now all they need to do is make it back to safety through the slums of Capital, dangerous at night even without shadowy assassins hunting you.
I’m sure they’ll be fine.

Featured artwork belongs to Josh Corpuz a badass concept artist and illustrator. Check ’em out!

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 8)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


“What should we do?” Jasha whispers to Telfor, her tone softer than usual.

Telfor pauses to consider. Staring through the bars at the cursed thing glaring back at him, he asks himself the same question. What does the presence of this monster change? He can’t think of anything, their job is only to bring the priest.
Slowly stepping up to the metal door, Telfor grips the bar and rattles it. Locked, as expected. He peers through looking around the room. Inside is a plain, but solid looking writing desk in the corner just around the corner out of easy sight from any further back. As well, closer now he notices the chain binding the creature to the wall.

“There’s a writing desk in there, and the monster’s restrained. We should find the key and see if there’s anything of use in that desk.”

“The priest would know,” Jasha says.

Laurin nods, fishing through his pockets and retrieving a folded cloth he kneels by the door. Opening the cloth, he pulls a couple of thin metallic tools and inserts them into the keyhole.

“Our little secret, right?” He says to the others, “But look for a key anyway, I’m just a hobbyist”

Telfor nods, shaking his head at the thieving mercenary. Together he and Jasha move back out of the cellar.

“Tel, do you think the crown knew about this? Is that thing why Arnhilde pushed you so hard to take the job?”

“I don’t know,” he answers, “It’s not like knowing would have stopped me. I think there’s something else going on.”

Arriving where Vahkragg waits sitting on a table with Diatter sprawls in pain on the ground at his feet. Telfor gives the giant a questioning glance as they approach.

“Thought he could conjure a spell and I wouldn’t notice.”

Telfor nods and shoves the priest with his foot, rolling him onto his back and handing the lamp to Jasha kneels down to take Diatter’s gaze.

“Good evening father. My companions and I found your little secret in the cellar and if you would be kind enough to give us the key without us having to turn your house upside down, we will inform the magistrate that you co-operated.”

Diatter coughs weakly, wheezing as he breaths indicating how hard Vahkragg must have struck him. His voice is hoarse and broken as it comes.

“I don’t have it. I swear. They bring it when they come, and take it when they leave. I have never even seen what it was you found down there. Please, listen to me, if you take me to them they will kill me and kill you too. Take me to the church and we will keep you safe.”

“Who are ‘they'” Telfor asks, ignoring the customary threats and bargains so common among captives.

“My superiors. But that doesn’t matter. What they have down there is a secret, but it’s not just our secret. It belonged to the Crown! We stole it from them as proof of their treachery!”

Telfor stares intently at Diatter, trying to untangle the truth from the lies and with a frustrated growl stands and turns back to Jasha.

“Search the place, see if you can find the key. Vahkragg, you go with her, I’ll see if I can’t convince Diatter to remember a spare key.”

Jasha nods professionally. Lighting a second unlit lantern, she leaves the first with Telfor and with a silent gesture leads Vahkragg out into the rest of the house to search. Diatter continues wheezing, his breathing less pained but clearly fearful. He could use that.

“I’m not in the mood to sit here and listen to you continue to lie to me all night. Say anything but what I ask you and you’ll get to learn if I can hit as hard as my friend, understood?”

Diatter nods silently, tears building in his eyes. Too much fear, this early, Telfor notes.

“Is there any way for us to get into the locked room in the cellar?”

“Not any ways I know.”

“What are your superiors names?”

“I don’t know, but they operated with the authority of High Priest Berter. I answer directly to him.”

“When do they come?”

“Once a month. I never know when.”

“Have they come this month.”

“Not yet.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“This will be the fourth month.”

Telfor pauses to contemplate everything he’d just been told. The complete and immediate co-operation of the priest threw him off balance, they were never this forthcoming unless they were lying.

“You’re not trying too hard to keep your order’s secrets.”

Diatter’s voice carried an almost frantic tone, “I’m just a priest. I don’t want you to hurt me.”

God’s rot he’s pathetic, Telfor thinks to himself, forcing down intruding feelings of guilt and shame.

“Door’s open, get down here!” Laurin’s voice echoes up from below.

A grin opens up on Telfor’s face, “Good news, Diatter. You won’t have to die not knowing the secret you’ve been hiding.”

Soft pathetic sobs from the priest wrack his small, fat body. He doesn’t resist as Telfor drags him to his feet and leads him down into the cellar. Passing Vahkragg on the way in, the hidden staircase too small for his large frame, Jasha and Laurin are waiting within the cell.
Laurin working on the lock of the writing desk, is guarded by Jasha sword drawn, warily watching the undead thing as it strains ravenously against the chain that binds it. The moment they come into sight of the monster, Diatter lets out a sharp involuntary shriek and friezes in space trying to resist being brought any closer.

“What’s the matter, Priest? This is your guest, isn’t it?”

Diatter is inconsolable, weeping and pleading for mercy seemingly without recognising the words being said to him or their meaning. With disgust, Telfor drops him outside the cell and steps inside.

“Do you think you can get this one, Laurin?”

“It’s simpler than the door, shouldn’t take me more than another five minutes if we’re lucky.”

Upstairs, a loud knock on the door echoes through and down into the cellar.


That’s probably just late night/early morning door to door salesmen. If they ignore it, I’m sure they’ll go away.

Tonight’s featured art is called Lockpicking by erenarik, a cool artist with a really broad spread of art you should check out.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 7)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


Telfor stares long at the pleading priest at his feet, anger rising in response to the offer. He hopes his anger is righteous indignation, but he knows it’s frustration struggling against the temptation over the amount being offered.
Trying to ignore the thoughts, Telfor shifts his focus to listening for Laurin. He wanted to shout for the others but if the prisoner had accomplices they could be alerted, besides which he doubted his voice would even make it through the heavy stone of the building.

“Hey, Cap,” Laurin’s voice rings up through the house seemingly from a lower level, a basement perhaps, “Get the others, I think you’ll want to see this.”

Cursing, Telfor fumbles in the unfamiliar darkness of this strange house for a lamp. Eventually finding one, he lights it finally revealing inside of the house. Grey and barren, it’s eerie. No decorations to be found anywhere. Returning to the entrance, he grips the prisoner beneath his arm and drags him to his feet, his pleas and bargains silent since Laurin’s call. Half leading, half dragging, he takes the priest through to the back door which he unlatches and opens to reveal Jasha and Vahkragg still waiting patiently for the possibility of an escape.

“Come in, Laurin’s found something he wants us to see in the basement.”

The pair enter, Jasha eyeing the prisoner almost disappointedly and Telfor closes the door behind them.

“What did he find?” Jasha asked.

“He didn’t elaborate, just shouted to get you two, that we’d want to see. He’s been down there since.”

Jasha grunts her annoyance. Vahkragg at the same time is forced to stoop at the height of the doorways, almost reaching the roof itself while standing casually.

“I’ll wait here. Watch the prisoner.” He says.

Telfor nods. Probably easier than trying to drag him around and down the stairs. Without any further discussion needed, with Jasha following shortly behind, Telfor lifts the lantern as they search for the source of Laurin’s voice in the grey, dark house.
From the back room, Telfor leads them in the vague direction of the voice. Sticking his head first into a large master bedroom, empty of both Laurin and any sense of life. An office, similarly devoid. And last, the kitchen off the entrance-way. From this cursory pass through there had no sign of Laurin or basement entrance.

“Where are you hiding, Laurin?”

“Kitchen pantry, there’s a cellar entrance.”

Sure enough there was. Telfor took a moment to look before entering, there was no handle on the outside, and he imagined when closed it would fit almost seamlessly with the rest of the floor, especially in the dark. How Laurin could have noticed this, even with his eyes, was a mystery.
Stepping carefully onto the thin, well worn stone steps of the descent he stopped as Jasha’s hand met his shoulder.

“I don’t like this.” She said.

“Neither do I,” he answered, “You can stay up here if you’d prefer.”

She glared defiantly in response, “You know that’s not what I meant.”

He nods. He did know, but it was all he had to offer her. Objections raised, they step down into the dank, stale air off the cellar. What lay below was a fairly standard, if impressively stocked wine cellar. The rock here was much dustier, and worn. The air is cool and damp, with a strange odour to it.
Again, Laurin is not immediately apparent to them as they enter. The rows of wine shelves keep sight lines short and claustrophobic.

“Laurin?”

The call is answered by his stepping from between two of the far shelves and waving them over. When they meet him, there is nothing but more wine shelves, nothing unusual like they’d been expecting.

“I need your help moving this shelf, it’s not built into the wall like the others.” Laurin says before they can question him, pointing out where the corners of the wood differentiate from the rest.

With a slow nod, Telfor positioned himself on one end of the shelf. Laurin after letting the larger man through started towards the other end, but Jasha pushes him back and out of the way, positioning herself on the other side of her husband.
The air shifted cold momentarily as a trickle of magic was drawn from the ether to strengthen Jasha then together they drag the tall wooden shelf a couple feet away from where the wall should have been. Instead carved into the rock and dirt is another room. Much rougher than the craftsmanship of the house above, this is clearly roughshod, hasty work.
Inside the hidden room a corpse stands, still animate, staring through metal bars towards them.

“God’s blood…” Telfor curses beneath his breath.

The corpse stares in thoughtless hatred. It’s mere presence an abhorrence that beggars belief. How could there be undead in Capital? And in a priest’s house no less. It didn’t make sense.

“Laurin,” Telfor’s voice is low and menacing, “I think you’ve kept me in the dark long enough. How did you know to look for this?”

Laurin sighs, none of his former playfulness present, “I didn’t. Honestly. Not this. I was looking for something, someone, else. My niece went missing some months ago, I’ve been looking for her whenever I could. I’m only here because I ran out of meaningful leads ages ago, now I’m just looking for anything that could be anything.
“I’d heard rumours about the conflict between the church and the crown. People on both sides taking secret actions against the other. Your prisoner is up there is a priest of Anir. Even better secret hoarders than me. I discovered Diatter by accident, we have some mutual acquaintances of a lower quality than most would suspect a priest to be friends with. It was curious, but I had better leads so I didn’t look further into it. When you brought me that contract of yours, it was suddenly strange enough for me to consider looking into. I figured even if it was nothing to do with my goal, it might give me something to trade.
“I never expected this. Gods, I hope my niece’s disappearance had nothing to do with this.”


The plot thickens. More undead, and one right here in Capital, under a priest’s house!? That’s probably a bad thing, I would imagine. Lucky they caught the guy, now everything will be a-ok!

Featured art is called 20120327 by Ardenrey, so go check ’em out!

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 6)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


“When are you going to settle down, Vahkragg?” Laurin asks from the head of the group. Looking back without slowing his quick pace when not receiving an answer, unvoiced laughter plain on his face. “I suppose not. I’ve heard said that the plainsmen don’t marry, they just couple when the mood hits them and let the tribe raise any children. Sounds like my kind of people.”

Vahkragg continues walking vigilantly through the dark alley as if Laurin hadn’t even spoken. His right hand flexes slowly, however, Telfor notices. The gesture could be annoyance, or simply anxiety over the job. It was difficult to be sure, but he didn’t want to let Laurin keep prodding until they found out.

“Where are we going, Laurin? You still haven’t told us anything about this plan of yours.”

“Haven’t I? That’s odd, seems pretty stupid to agree to a plan you don’t know anything about.”

Hot anger began building in Telfor, the heat spreading up his neck and ears. He could feel Jasha’s eyes on him, she’d said the same thing earlier.

“Just tell us the plan, rake.”

With a pleased laugh, Laurin says “Not much of a plan really. I know where he lives, we go there, you knock on the door and ideally he agrees to come quietly.”

There’s a tone to his voice the old soldier doesn’t like, “You don’t think he will?”

Laurin shrugs like couldn’t possibly know anything, but continues anyway “Well, I’ve never met him personally so I couldn’t say much as to the gentleman’s quality. But there are some who say that this priest has been engaged in some very questionable activities such that going quietly may not have a desirable outcome for him.”

Telfor exchanges looks with Jasha and Vahkragg, the contract had been non-specific specific on the reasons for the arrest. Priest’s weren’t usually magic users, but they also weren’t usually wanted criminals. If he was, that would be the most likely outcome for things getting unpredictable.

“Do you think he’ll cause us any trouble?”

“A single priest against four armed and experienced soldiers?” Laurin laughed, “I should hope not! No, he won’t cause us any problems.”

Telfor frowned. Thing’s weren’t adding up and he didn’t like it when that happened.

“Why did you want to come along then?”

Laurin simply answers with a smugly condescending look, but before he can be questioned further he changes the subject, “We’re almost there. The good father’s home is on the street ahead, just two doors to the left of where we come out across the road.”

True to his word, the narrow footpath they’d walked between the stone houses turns towards and opens onto the main thoroughfare. The four of the pause behind the last house, out of sight of the road but still visible to any resident who might happen to peer out their back window.

“Is there a back way on the other side like this one?” Telfor asks.

“Almost identical.”

“Alright, Vahkragg, Jasha, you two loop around and watch the back. We’ll give you a minute to get into position then knock on the door.”

They nod and together depart the alleyway. Laurin leans against the back wall of one of the houses, casually watching Telfor as they wait.

“Are you expecting any trouble at all?” Telfor reiterates now he has the chance.

Laurin pauses as if to consider his answer, “Not in the way you mean.”

“In what way then?”

“Might be we find something interesting inside.”

“We’re not going inside.” Telfor states firmly.

Laurin actually looks surprised at the assertion, raising one eyebrow and studying Telfor for a moment before another burst of incredulous laughter breaks from his lips. “You’re serious. I’ll never understood how you got this far, Tel. Look or don’t, it’s your choice, personally I’d rather know if there’s anything worth knowing.”

With no time to continue the discussion Telfor just narrows his eyes in disapproval and starts walking from the alley towards the house.
Capital is old. Not all of it, of course, but there are parts like this one that predate the current kingdom. The stone buildings along this street almost resembles the compact design of the under-mountain folk. Compact and practical, only the obviously skilled craftsmanship and strangely boxy artistic flourishes, left over from whatever culture had originally built them, kept them from seeming like simply giant carved rocks.
Rapping his knuckles on the wooden door, Telfor waits patiently for an answer. After a short wait, the door opens and in the unlit interior of the doorway a rotund, middle aged man of less than half Telfor’s height looks up in confusion.

“Father Diatter? I have with me a warrant for your arrest, I request-”

Telfor is cut off shortly into his spiel by the priest attempting to slam the door in his face. However, this was the reaction they’d been expecting and before the door was completely shut, Telfor shoved back with his vastly superior size and strength knocking the priest back and off his feet.
Scrambling to his feet, the priest makes to dash deeper into the dark of the house. He wasn’t fast enough though, before he able to properly stand the priest was back on the ground with Laurin’s vice-like grip on his wrist and knee on his back.
Recognising the situation was under control, Telfor also enters the house, closing the door behind him to keep out curious eyes.

“As I was saying, you’re under arrest.”

Telfor takes his manacles from their pouch and taking over from Laurin, locks the small man’s wrists fastly. Rising to his feet again, he considers the complete lack of light in the house.
In the time he had taken to bind the prisoner and consider the lack of light, Laurin had disappeared deeper into the house. Cursing him, Telfor resolved to wait with the prisoner, not that he’d have any luck pursuing Laurin in the dark. Laurin’s ancestry was in the deep wood. Light rarely broke the ancient canopies there so his eyes were well suited for this environment.

“Please, you’re making a mistake.” the voice of the priest was high and thin, “I am a servant of the gods. Return me to the temple and you’ll be rewarded twice what they’re offering you. By the will of Anir, I swear it!”


A lot of weirdness around this job, but overall it’s seeming surprisingly simple in execution. What’s Laurin hoping to find in the dark? And that church money must sound pretty tempting to Telfor right now.

Today’s featured art is called A Quiet Man by Peter Mohrbacher, I highly recommend checking out his stuff it’s hyper cool. His Angelarium is amazing.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 5)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


Telfor slowly turns the page of his book in the mild afternoon sun. Keeping a mindful eye on Sara who is busy playing with the other park children. Books are one of Telfor’s last remaining guilty pleasures,  the guilt of which is almost entirely the cost of the hobby. Even in capital books are expensive. And having failed to get payed, Telfor resorted to rereading an old favourite instead of picking up a new on.
This book once belonged to his father. It purports to be a history of the Kingdom but reads more like a collection of myths and fairy tales. To Telfor carries fond memories of his childhood in Pike’s Reach during the years before the war. A couple of pages into the story of Vike the Wretched (the hero despite his name), his reading is interrupted by Sara wandering over and throwing herself wearily into his lap.

“Wear yourself out, did we Miss?”

Another dramatic slump the only answer he’s likely to get, Telfor closes his book and pulls himself and Sara to their feet. The scars on his chest where the anathema had wounded him tug, and again Telfor wonders how many years he’s got left in him and if they’d be enough.
Outwardly he conceals any of his inner concerns and taking his daughter by the hand, leads her out of the park and down the paved roads towards their home. As tired as she must be, Sara manages to tap into some hidden reserve of energy to tell him all about everything he needed to know about the kid’s she’d met at the park and the very elaborate story they’d made up about super-punching unicorn riding warrior wizards.
At the end of the short walk home, Sara seems to have recovered from her exertions at the park and Telfor is feeling exhausted from listening to everything.
Wondering at Jasha’s ability to keep up with their daughter alone whenever he was out on campaign, Telfor was perfectly content to swap places with his wife and take over the household chores while she watched Sara.

Hours pass, and their first full day together as a family in months comes to a close as Sara’s endless energy finally finds one and she is put to bed, sleeping like a log. Tossing a wood he supposes will last until he has to leave for the mission, Telfor settles down by the fire.

“Your mission still on for tonight?”

Telfor looks to his wife at the question, trying to anticipate the direction of her inquiry. Finding nothing in her demeanour, he answers, “That’s right.”

“I’m coming too.”

He felt the denial spring to his lips almost before he realises what she’s said. Jasha stands over him, her well muscled arms crossed in front of her torso, her stance defiant and firm. Catching himself, he pauses to actually considers it and realises it made sense. She was Reborn too, though currently inactive. More than that she had been a better fighter than him when they’d both been active, and he would be very surprised if she’d slacked on training just because she wasn’t active.

“Alright. But if it’s for any reason you have to make a choice between getting me out or getting yourself out, you get yourself out. Sara needs you more than me.”

Jasha gives him a look that said she didn’t agree, but was too good a soldier to argue. At least in the Reborn, he did outrank her.
With the matter agreed upon, Jasha’s confrontational demeanour softens and she settles down by Telfor’s side, leaning against him with a hand on his.

“Do you really think there’s a chance one of us might not come back?” There was no fear in the question, she simply wanted to know.

“Nothing I’ve seen or been told gives me any reason to think there is. We’re just going to knock on an old priest’s door at night, arrest him, and take him back to the reeve. It should be easier than caravan duty.”

“But you’ve got a bad feeling.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling.”

“Is it because of what you said the other day about the crown and church feuding?”

Telfor sighs, not fully knowing the answers himself, “No, not really. That all makes sense, we’ve considered that and accounted for it. I suppose it’s because I don’t know why.”

“Honey, we never know why. We’re mercenaries.”

He shook his head, brow furrowed, “Not like this, though. Most of the time what we don’t know is irrelevant. We know we’re escorting a caravan to protect from bandits, doesn’t matter why they’re travelling. We know we’re marching east because there’s a war, doesn’t matter why the nobles are fighting. But this one, I don’t know. We’re arresting a criminal to face trial, or justice. Usually that’s enough. But something tells me this isn’t that.”

Jasha runs her palm up his chest to his neck and pulls him down to kiss him.

“I don’t know anything about any of that, but I do know it’s bad to go to a fight tense and we’ve got a couple of hours to ourselves…”

***

A couple hours later, Telfor and Jasha are weaving their way through the markets. The night is alive, as they always seem to be here, with music, fire, and dancers. Open dining stalls open to the entertainment mostly replacing the practical goods stalls of the day with numerous enterprising sellers of stranger curios seducing market goers from their journey’s with mystery and guile.
They first spot Vahkragg, his head and shoulders breaking free from the crowd vertically despite the crowd of gawkers he’d attracted simply by being a clansman in the city. Almost as quickly, the keen eyed giant spots the pair through the crowd and pushes through the crowd to meet them.
Seemingly not surprised by Jasha’s presence, Vahkragg doesn’t bother trying to talk through the dull roar of the festivities. Instead he nods his head in beckons to the pair and guides them through the crowd to an alley where they find Laurin waiting seated on top of a wooden barrel.

“Well if it isn’t the Rushing Blade, herself. I heard you’d retired.”

Jasha grinned at the smaller man as if she were simply showing him how many teeth she had. It would be a threatening gesture if not for the two’s colourful history. Telfor felt a little heat rising, but pushed it down. That was ancient history.

“Anyone else I don’t know about joining us on tonight’s run, Cap?” Laurin asked.

“Just us.”

“Wonderful.” Laurin smiled, hopping gracefully from the barrel, “It’s this way. I’d call it a shortcut, but technically it’s longer just avoids the crowds.”


Now that’s enough happy family time, now it’s time to go and murder them, right? That’s how fantasy do now? Nah they’ll probably survive. Maybe. I dunno, read and find out.

Featured are is called Thief and is by Jesper Ejsing who makes rad art, go check it.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 4)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


“Daddy!” Sara’s voice met Telfor as he enters, the door opening with a familiar creak and the cosy light of the fireplace warming the room. Springing from her seat at the table, Sara runs across the room to greet him. With a joyous laugh the old soldier catches and swings her up off the ground to carry her on his hip as he moves to where his wife, Jasha stands waiting. With his free arm he pulls her in and kisses her deeply. Her hands rest tenderly on his chest for the moment, gripping the hem of his shirt in a way that tells him she missed him.
When they part, the smell of stew finally reaches his brain. In the excitement to see his family he’d overlooked it but now in his hunger it’s all he can focus on. No other smell could simultaneously send his mind both back home, and out on campaign at the same time. Jasha had been a soldier like him before they had married and had Sara, and she still cooked like a soldier. Unlike many army cooks, Jasha took pride in what she made and her stew was always delicious.

“Difficult time on your mission, Tel?” Jasha asks, her arms crossed and a sternness concealed beneath a pleasant conveying more than her words. 

With a sigh he hoped expressed contrition rather than annoyance, Telfor put Sara down with a kiss and set about helping himself to a bowl of stew, “Yeah, things got complicated. I’ll tell you about it.”

Complicated was their code for when they should continue when Sara’s asleep. Jasha nods her understanding and the three sit down together for dinner. Almost finished eating already by the time Telfor had arrived, before long they are just listening to Sara telling stories about everything that had been happening in her life while he was away.

“Mamma’s been teaching me how to fight! She says I’m a natural with aug-magic!”

“Is that so?” Telfor asks, looking up questioning at Jasha who returns his stare defiantly.

Sara nods confidently, “That’s right. Also, Cardicus is teaching me to read. He says I’m going to be a warrior poet, like the old kings.”

With a small chuckle, Telfor tussles her hair, “So long as you don’t tell me you want to marry a prince. I’ve never heard a single story where marrying a prince went well.”

“No, Daddy,” Sara answers, seemingly earnest.

Together the family finishes their meal. Sara goes and sits by the fire, telling herself a story with two toys made with sticks and cloth while Telfor takes the plates to clean. For the next a few hours they have nothing but each other. These are the times that Telfor cherishes, and made all the sweeter by how rarely they actually happen. This last job had kept him away for two weeks, half of his away time already.
Much too soon, it comes time for Sara to go to bed. Telfor takes her to her room and tucks her in with a kiss.

“Daddy, are you leaving again?”

“Not until the new moon, sweetheart.”

Sara considers this, frowning a little, “That’s so soon.”

“I know, love,” he answers, “I wish I could stay here with you and your mother all the time, but I need to work so we can afford to ear.”

“Why don’t you work here in the city?”

“Because my profession doesn’t have much demand here. Soldiering is best when it’s done far away.”

“Mamma says that war is coming to capital, though.”

It was true, everyone knew war was coming but hearing the words come from his daughter’s mouth sent a shiver down his spine, “Now, Sar, there’s never been fighting in Capital for a hundred years. That all stays outside the walls, up in the hill forts. You’re safe here in the city. I won’t be gone forever, one day soon we’ll have enough saved that your mamma and I will be able to buy an inn here in the city, or a farm down south and we’ll all be together all the time. Promise.”

“Hmm,” Sara considered the prospect deeply before deeming it acceptable with a nod, “Alright. Just remember you promised.”

With another kiss, Telfor took the oil lamp and left his daughter’s the room, hanging the lamp at the end of the hall and extinguishing it as he re-enters the main room. Jasha was sitting on the rug before the fire, mending clothes worn down and torn during work and play. He settles down beside her, watching the fire dance as he waits for her to speak.

“You were late.”

“I know,” Telfor acknowledges apologetically, “Things went bad, the job itself should have been simply but we encounted an army of undead on the King’s Road and had to flee into the Märchenwald.”

“The fairy wood? Jugir’s blood… it’s a wonder you made it back at all. But, an undead army? What was that doing there? How could it be there?”

“I wish I knew,” he answered, “We lost them fairly quickly, even the dead know better than to enter those woods. We were fortunate, we only suffered one fatality in the wood. Verumalleus died saving the lives of Vahkragg and I.”
Jasha’s hand left it’s hand to rest on his arm. He took it in his own as he continued to speak, “We were poisoned, but we were treated by a girl in a village we were lucky enough to find. Zsófia is her name, she asked to come with us and I couldn’t say no.
The prisoner got away while we were recovering. It seems like Rubin might have let him go, I didn’t have time to properly investigate and it wasn’t a good idea doing it then, anyway. Anyway, Vahkragg and I came back to report our failure and the undead presence but had to leave Pan, Rubin and Zsófia behind to treat a curse.
That should have been it, just a dead friend and a failed mission but that’s not it. Arnhilde gave us another job to arrest a priest here in the city, made me a veiled threat about it too.” 

“Arnhilde veiled a threat?”

“Aye, was almost like someone else was talking out her mouth when she did it. I could almost see the strings move. Could tell she hated it almost as much as I did.”

“What about this new job?”

“Spoke to Laurin, he confirmed what I already knew. It’s a trap. Not for us, we’re just moving pieces. Not sure exactly who for, don’t rightly care, but Laurin said he knew how to get to the target while out of sight of the Pantheonic guard. The plan is to do that tomorrow at midnight, Sara won’t even know I was gone.”

He could feel the tension in Jasha’s hand as he spoke, could tell she wasn’t happy. She’d been a soldier before Sara, and she’d never expressed any discontentment with Telfor’s profession, but he could feel it was there, even if she’d never admit it.

“It’ll be three of us and the unsuspecting Priest, we’ll be in and out in an hour, tops.”

“Three of you? I thought you said only Vahkragg was with you?”

“Laurin’s coming with us.”

“Laurin?”

“That’s right.”

“That wastrel’s never done anything for free in his life, what did you promise him?”

Telfor hesitates before answering, “Ten percent.”

“Bloody one, give me strength!”

“I didn’t have much of a choice, Jasha, the crown and the church are feuding. I wasn’t about to risk my life on the hope they give him up peacefully.”

That gives Jasha pause. He’d only recently learned that himself, and he had been travelling with a crusader and working for the crown. To most people’s eyes, the church and the crown were dual arms of the law.
Jasha puts the clothes aside and lowers her head for a couple deep breaths. It was something she did when her temper was hot but she knew she didn’t want a fight.

“I trust you. I’ve always supported you, and you know I always will. I’m so sorry to hear about Ver, she was a beautiful soul. But the most important thing is that you’re still alive. We need you here. Don’t forget that.”

He put an arm around her shoulder and pulls her in to him, resting his head on hers. They sit in silence for a time, the tense energy in Jasha slowly being released. He can tell she’s finally ready to forgive him when she climbs onto his lap, kissing him deeply.


A bit of a longer one today, usually I try to go for closer to 1k words flat, but felt that the scene wasn’t complete this time for a bit longer. If I was editing these rather than just stream of conscious writing, I think I’d bring Tel and Jasha’s conflict a bit more into the open. But I also kinda like it all going on underneath.

Featured art is by Steve Argyle it’s the art for 4e D&D for Half-Orc’s, Tel and Jasha aren’t half-orc, but they aren’t human and half-orc was the closest I could find where art vaguely resembled.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 3)

The Beginning
The Beginning of Part Two
The Beginning of this Part


“My lord, word has arrived from the Lord Magistrate. He says that the Reborn have accepted the mission.”

Lord Winsome looks up from his work, and breakfast to Seneschal Marek receiving the report while extending his hand to take the letters simultaneously offered.  He studies the man for the moment, technically the King’s majordomo the Seneschal’s loyalty and forthrightness was not something the Earl relied on too deeply.
Satisfied, Winsome regretfully abandoned his meal to quickly regard the letters in case he needed Marek to leave with some form of response. His shoulder’s ached and he felt the beginnings of a headache already forming behind his ears. The first couple of letters were insignificant, responses and queries or complaints from various equally insignificant nobles, functionaries, and the like. It was only the final letter, sealed with the emblem of the church that brought that heavy weight of annoyance with it.

He skipped past the formalities, usually almost an entire page telling him his own titles, to the meat of the correspondence. This part at least was brief.

“Our agents in Verwich have arrested a sorcerer, stated name of Oliver. We would be delighted to negotiate the exchange of the prisoner with the Crown or one of her duly appointed agents and wish to extend an invitation to the Cathedral of the Sun.”

Feeling the heat of anger rushing to his head, Lord Winsome takes a long moment to carefully fold the letter and breath to steady himself before taking his quill and rapidly penning a response communicating his intention to accept the invitation.
With practiced efficiency, he signs and seals the letter before standing to offer it to Marek.

“Send this by mounted courier and make preparations so I may leave for Verwich as soon as is possible.”

Marek nods, the curiosity in his eye imperceptible if the Earl hadn’t been expecting it, and bowing, exits the room.
The Lord Winsome patiently waits until Marek is well out of earshot, listening to his footsteps to be sure, before slamming his fists violently onto the desk and throwing himself into his chair, slumping in defeat.
Looking up at the portrait of himself and his wife, Countess Chloe, hanging on the wall. His pain he’d thought in the past re-surged with a vengeance. It was true, after all. The High Priestess was many things, but never a liar. The boy was real. And so the rumours must be too. He wondered at the absence of that blinding anger he’d felt when he’d first been confronted with the possibility of his wife’s infidelity. Perhaps that would come later.
Pushing down his emotions, Winsome considers what this new information meant for his plans. Taking solace in the analytical state he took for dealing with matters of state, he centred himself and started to come up with his next steps.
Eventually he pulls another blank page from the pile and starts to write a new letter.

***

With Laurin gone, telling another fiction to another sap Telfor assumed, the old soldier finishes up the drink he’d gotten when they came in. Counting coins in his head against the number of new recruits who’d likely arrive with the old guard when the company reassembled, he added another couple of years to his retirement plan.
He looked across at Vahkragg, the giant was staring intently at a couple of drunks who seemed to be mustering the courage to do or say something to another. Fight’s breaking out weren’t that uncommon, but they rarely lasted long. Plenty people like Vahkragg who enjoyed “evening the odds” in unfair brawls.
Telfor thought about his wife and daughter. He should have been home with them a week ago. Placing his empty cup on the table he stands.

“I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Keeping one eye on the brewing fight, Vahkragg nods. Just like an enormous cat waiting to pounce Telfor thinks to himself, stepping from the inn to the waning hours of the afternoon.
The walk from the gate district to his home was a long way, the gate district was on the other side of the Palace and the market, just getting through those would take half the journey, then the residences were close to the opposite wall. At least they’d been able  to afford something inside the walls, he wouldn’t wish the sprawls on someone who deserved them. That part of the city devoured people.
The market’s were even more packed when he made it there this time. The late afternoon bringing even more folk to the square to shop, peddle, or even perform. The frantic vibrancy of it all brought a smile to his face. Vahkragg may hate the city, but to Telfor this city at least was home and he loved it for it’s wild, unique personality.
Passing from the main markets through the inner gate that separated the wealthy from the ordinary, he crossed the much calmer but even more brightly coloured marketplace. Instead of the temporary stalls of the main market here were built permanent stores and the square was an open garden for strolling. He stood out somewhat in his more humble attire, but he had papers authorising his presence so the soldiery left him to cross in peace. He noted the abundance in House Drachengier’s heraldry, usually diminished by the presence of the heraldry of other nobility presently visiting occupying much of the space. Today however it seemed other House Argon, and Venta were in residence. They’re running scared, he thought.
Beyond the markets, things calmed significantly. In contrast with the narrow, winding roads of Verwich where even whole buildings could hide well enough never to be found, the streets of Capital were straight and proud with paved roads even out in the residences. Another contrast was Verwich’s abundance of wooden homes compared to Capital’s stone. The palace had been dug into the mountain, so stone had been abundant in the cities construction, while the Märchenwald Forest, the only significant source of wood was miles away to the south.
Thoughts of comparing his home city to abroad left Telfor however, as he saw his personal home coming up to greet him as he approached. The familiar feeling of nervousness built in his chest, even after all these years, coming home after a long time away could still make him feel this way. Or perhaps it was fear of what his wife would say. The thought made him smile. It was good to be home.


Happier with this one, though I had less of an idea where I wanted to go with it. I feel like a learned something about Vahkragg and Telfor I hadn’t know previously. I’m feeling things starting to come together, I’m excited.

This featured art I unfortunately couldn’t find any sign as to the owner, so if you know please let me know so I can credit them.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 2)

“How’d it go?” Vahkragg asks as Telfor returns from the bowels of the court.

“Strange,” Telfor answered, leading the pair back out into the roar of the markets where it would be impossible to be overheard, “Arnhilde threatened me, but financially, and she veiled the threat.”

Rather than offer an opinion, Vahkragg kept silent, waiting for Telfor to continue.

“It doesn’t suit her. Someone put her up to it, or otherwise the situation is just dire enough for her to feel like she had to. Said something about the church. Bullied me into taking a job to arrest a priest right here in the city, or they wouldn’t pay us.”

“Could be difficult.”

“You don’t have to convince me of that,” Telfor says. Their conversation drops to a lull and before long they’ve arrived at the Pikeman’s Rest, a large, working class inn frequented by soldiers, mercenaries, and the like.
Even so early in the afternoon the bar is filled with off-duty soldiers loudly drinking. With rumblings of war building, mercenaries have gravitated towards capital in anticipation and until the situation starts bearing fruit there’s little else to do but drink the profits from previous tours.
Approaching the bar, Telfor wordlessly orders the only drink served here and move to a table close to the wall. Carefully, the old soldier scans the room from over his drink searching for the man they’d come here to see. Before long, Telfor recognises Laurin, the lean soldier regaling a crowd of fresh faced looking kids. He’d almost think Laurin was one of them by appearance if he didn’t know better. Knowing better than to waste time waiting for Laurin to finish talking he sighs and begins trudging in their direction.

“So there we were, the last three senior officers of the Boar Company against almost twenty of them best cavalry those goat-wives could field. It’s a pity they let the Boars get entrenched before they charged…” Laurin’s voice is sodden with melodrama, the way he told it you’d think the soldiers he claimed to have killed were his own crib-mates. And the recruits were eating it up, hanging from the words like a babe from the teat. The kids seemed to be getting younger every recruiting season, and Telfor didn’t have the patience to listen the end of this noise again.

“Laurin, you lying son-of-a-pig,” he boomed, cutting off the tale and instantly the kids are ready for a fight. Laurin, however, turns hurriedly to see Telfor standing behind him and with disarming laughter greets the old soldier heartily.

“Telfor, you old stone! You’re still alive, I’d heard they sent you across the mountains to steal the Emporer’s golden underpants!”

“How can you bear the taste of your own mouth talking as much shit as you do Laurin?”

With another bout of laughter, Laurin waves off the younger men who return sullenly to their drinks, and throwing an arm around Telfor’s shoulder follows him back to the table where Vahkragg is waiting.

“You are sharp today, old stone. But I can understand that, my condolences. The Crusader was a good woman.”

Telfor didn’t even blink at Laurin’s revealing he somehow already knew, that skill was why he’d wanted to find the braggart. At least, Telfor supposed, if Laurin is dropping that piece so soon, he’s probably not got much else in the way of details just what he’d told the reeve and that possibly the others likely had told the church.

“She’ll be missed.” He answered flatly, making it clear that that conversation was done. “Actually I wanted to borrow your expertise.”

Laurin scowled at being denied his gossip, but perked up as Telfor handed him the writ. Opening and scanning the document, his eyes and grin widen and he chuckles to himself this time. Handing the document back to Telfor, he waves to a server for a new drink before leaning back in his chair in smug anticipation.

“That’s quite a job you’ve taken, I’m honoured you brought it to little old me.”

“Cut the crap, Laurin, we both know the I’m being screwed here and I want you to tell me how.”

Scowling again, Laurin leans in and says, “Ten percent.”

“Burning radiance,” Telfor curses, “That’s highway robbery. Actually, highwaymen at least leave you enough to finish your trip. That’s a taxman’s rip!”

“Not for this information it’s not. Trust me. We’ve known each other a long time, so I’ll tell you how banjaxed you are, and then you’ll thank me for the discount.”

Telfor studies the sharp features of the man across from him, he knew for the second time in as many hours he was over the barrel and he wasn’t happy about it. With a grunt and a nod, Laurin’s wicked grin widened once more.

“A war’s brewing, everyone in this line of work can feel them coming. But this one’s not the usual territorial campaign, or poorly considered uprising. This war’s going to be big enough that even the ordinary folk can feel it coming.
I’ve heard plenty mutterings over who’s going to be making the move, but that’s just politics and market gossip. It doesn’t matter to us whose picture they hang on the walls, or which god gets to stand in the middle of the pantheon, what matters to dirt like us is who’s hiring and that little scrap of paper you just showed me makes me think I know who that’s going to be.
House Argon picked up my boar company just this week. I’ve hear rumour House Venta took the Crimson Dawn on retainer. But we’re small fish. There’s not many merc groups in the kingdom big enough that hiring them’ll change the shape of the picture. There’s your Reborn, of course, and then there’s Falcons. I’ve been keeping up with Captain Kaelve and they’ve also not been hired by anyone.
My theory, everyone’s too scared. Hire the Reborn or the Falcons and that’s basically declaring intent. But I think you’re getting trialled by someone with this job. That priest you’re going to arrest, I know him. He’s nobody. And what’s more he’s guilty, trust me on that. Any other time the magistrate’d just ask the church for him, and they’d hand him over as happy as anything but now they’re feeling a little more belligerent. You show up with a warrant and you’ll go the way of a lone tax collector in the Bricks.
I know where you can get him alone, even get you the evidence they’re lacking, if you’d rather not take the front door.”

Telfor sighed, ten percent for a load of supposition and gossip. But getting their quarry without fighting the Pantheonic Guard was enough. He raised his hands in defeat.

“Deal.”


Don’t know how I felt about this one, definitely a lot I’d do differently on a second take. But these stories are straight from my mind to the page, basically unedited. The goal is just to get myself to do the writing for practice rather than perfect it.

Featured art belongs to Flaptrapsart, check them out their stuff is rad.

– Zairron

Concord of the Reborn (pt. 1)

Welcome,

This is the third chapter in my Blood and Lies series, the tale of a band of mercenary adventurers hoping to survive a mission to arrest and bring for judgement a man accused of evil magic.

Along the way they discovered an army of undead along the road. Had one of their number killed and two others badly poisoned in a fight with a forest monster. Were saved and joined on their journey by a good priest to an evil god in an isolated forest town. Bloodlessly captured their prisoner who was treacherously released by their own magic user. Arrived in Verwich, the second largest city in the kingdom where they discovered they had been embroiled through their mission in some larger political conflict.

If you’re just finding this story now you can find part 1 of the earlier chapters here; Blood and Lies, and here Vicissitudes in the Dark Wood.

And now, with no further ado… The Corncord of the Reborn.


The streets of Capital are paved with the trampled dreams of thousands who sought a scant taste of the dragon’s hoard and instead became a part of it. The air is loud with the voices of people as they claw to carve niche in the crowded metropolis of merchants, priests, and soldiers.

Vahkragg shoves his way through the throng, the source of his hatred for cities being reminded to him, all this meaningless noise and people. With his great height he is able to see over the heads of most folk who make up the crowd and above him gold dragons segreant on purple banners, the sign of the King’s House, hanging from the towering stone walls let him know they all but arrived at their destination.
By the giant’s side, Telfor weaves through the crowd with the skill of a local. While lacking his companions perspective he knows Capital far better and he also knows they are close to the magistrate. The prospect is not a pleasant one in this moment.
Together the companions break free from the market crowds as they approach the court.

Inside is they are granted reprieve from the manic rush of the market, but in it’s place is the hallowed silence that only places of significance can command. The high stone roof and wide open interior trapped sound and suffocated it, creating an atmosphere of judgement and oppressiveness.
Pleased to be excluded, Vahkragg hangs back to wait in the hall with their weapons as Telfor offers his writ to the clerk and is granted entrance beyond the dividing barrier into the court proper. Boots clumping satisfyingly on the solid marble floor as he marches down the hall towards the office. Arriving, a pair of armed guards search him for weapons before allowing him entrance.
Through the tall dark wooden doors, Telfor enters the office of Reeve Arnhilde. She is seated at her desk, busy with some documents when the sound of Telfor’s entrance draws her attention away. Standing too greet him, she gestures to a seat which he takes.

“Your contract?” she says, prompting Telfor to hand her the writ, which she glances over quickly before looking back up at him, “Your report?”

“We have been unsuccessful in our mission, Lord Reeve.”

Arnhilde cocks an eyebrow suspiciously, “That’s unlike you, Captain. Do you have an explanation?

“No ma’am,” Telfor answers professionally, “We had him in custody but ran into complications on our return that enabled his escape.”

“What manner of complication?”

“There were two, first we were driven off the road by the presence of a significant force of undead. Unfortunately I cannot be more specific as to their numbers as we were warned before we saw them by Crusader Verumalleus of their presence. While travelling through the forest we were attacked by a monster. We slew the beast, but it killed the Crusader in the process and almost killed me and one of my men. He escaped while we were still recovering. I decided that bringing word of this undead threat was more important than pursuing our contract.”

Arnhilde nods ponderously, the Reeve, Telfor knew, was good at her job. An ex-soldier herself, she understood things got complicated in action, but she was also known for her gentle demeanour.

“What you say is dark news, the Crusader was a good woman and a better soldier. Her loss will be felt. What is more pressing, however, is the presence of unknown, likely hostile, force on our lands. You were right in your decision, however that doesn’t change the fact that you failed to fulfil your contract. I cannot pay you for it.”

Telfor’s expression darkens, though he manages to keep it civil enough to express his displeasure but so Arnhilde would not feel compelled to challenge him. Raising her hand in response, Arnhilde continues.

“I understand your frustration, soldier. I will speak with the magistrate to try an authorise some funds to reward you for the information you have brought, but I cannot promise anything other than that it will be less than the contract’s worth.”

The heat lessened around his neck and ears, he could handle less. Anything but nothing.

“Appreciate it, the main force is reconvening by the full moon so I’ll need anything I can get to cover their pay.” he said, it was less than they deserved but better than he expected. Believing this meeting over, Telfor moves to stand but is stopped by a gesture from the reeve.

“Just one more thing, Captain. Does your band have work lined up yet?”

Telfor squints, usually repeat work follow successful jobs, not failures, “We’ve some offers, but not accepted any yet.”

Opening a drawer, Arnhilde produces a contract of identical dimensions to the previous and places it on Telfor’s side of the table, “Here’s another. It’s another small team job, same as the last one but it takes place right here in the city so you should have plenty time to finish it before your soldiers need paying.”

“A bounty in the Capital? Why not have the guard do it?”

“The subject is a priest, and with things being as they are, the magistrate felt sending King’s Men would be unnecessarily provocative.”

“And how exactly are things?” Telfor intones.

Arnhilde shrugs, an strangely informal gesture for her, Telfor thought, “The churches of the Pantheon are frustrated with the crown exercising its authority to collect taxes from them. We understand their feeling and do not with to press them more than necessary.”

Telor nodded, he’d heard something about the new taxes. The logic made sense. Something felt off about it however, but he definitely needed the money.

“If you succeed on this task it will make things a lot simpler for me in requesting the magistrate approve you a reward for the information as well.”

He almost physically winced, she had him by the throat. The threat was clear, do the job or you get nothing. This was not the Arnhilde he’d known, she dealt straight. Whatever this was making her play him like this, he didn’t want anything to do with it.
Reaching forward, he took the contract from the desk. It didn’t feel heavy, or hot or cold like he felt it should have, but he hated it regardless.

“Will that be all ma’am?”

She waved him off, already getting back into the pile of documents she had been working on when he entered. Avoiding making eye contact. Good he thought, at least she seems as unhappy with this whole exchange as I am. 

And he left.


Thank you all for reading, hope you enjoyed this one and are excited to see what’s coming up ahead.

The featured image is Goddess of Justice by VladNoxArt, go check ’em out.

– Zairron

Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods (pt. 16)

Rubin felt the breath knocked from his lungs as his back slammed against the alley wall. Rage radiated from Pan’s eyes as he stood over the smaller man, fists bunched up in his collar.

“You better make me explain what is going on, and if I even suspect you’re trying to magic me I will end you.”

Heart pounding in fear, even though he’d known something like this was coming after Nella had outed him like that, Rubin swallows back the feeling and fought to meet Pan’s gaze.

“It’s true, I lied to you all in the woods but I swear on Atyx and the Pantheon that it was for good reasons.” He paused half a moment to read Pan’s reaction and see if he would interrupt but he just stared with cold fury, so Rubin continued, “Things are not as they should be in the kingdom. You know that. Everyone knows the king is absent in his duties.
The Royal Contract Telfor was given is fraudulent. King Hemsgard has no interest in hiring mercenaries to bring in a single hermit, maledict or otherwise. No-one does, as foul as their practice, hedge sorcerers are like rats, not worth the cost and effort until they swarm.”

“Get on with it, Rubin.” the revenant hissed, cold air misting at the corners of his mouth invogorating the fear in the scholar’s chest.

“I swear this is all important! Lord Winsome is the one running the Kingdom, regent in all but name. He’s an effective enough man, his unjust taxation of the churches would be forgivable for the good it has done if that were the extent of his liberties.
The High Priestess is only one of many who has been closely watching the Earl’s activities lately, and she’s discovered that the Earl was desperately hunting someone. We didn’t know who, but we knew that he had started to utilise resources and liberties reserved for the crown and the church. Nella, couldn’t act without a stronger cause, the Earl still holds the respect of most of the aristocracy and the nobility close ranks from outsiders, even and especially if it is the church, so she reached out to me to find out why this one was important.”

“And?”

Rubin lowers his gaze and steels himself, “I am not permitted to tell you, I’m sorry.”

From the pain and the ringing in his ear, Rubin supposed that Pan wasn’t satisfied with that answer.

“Listen closely you pompous shit,” The blue in Pan’s eyes was growing more intense, the scholar felt the cold biting through this shirt where the revenant gripped him and silently gave a prayer for Atyx’s guiding light, “I don’t give a damn about whatever political bullshit you’re engaged in. Right now, as far as you are concerned, there is no authority but mine. Tell me exactly what danger you’ve put us all in or I’ll open you up like a fish and leave you to rot.”

“I am sorry, but I cannot.” The words shook with fear, impossible to be held back. Rubin’s eyes closed, he knew he was going to die. It’s a shame, he thought, we were just starting to get along a little. The scholar opened his eyes and resolutely met Pan’s murderous gaze, and he saw only a dead thing kept moving by rage, with no trace of humanity.

The sharp blade left Pan’s hip and moved with intent to the scholar. With the tip pressed into the cloth of Rubin’s shirt, Pan’s lips part as he opens them to speak but the sound of footsteps moving swiftly in their direction cuts him off. In less than a moment, the otherworldly glow in his eyes, and chill are gone as well as his knife.
Rubin, finding himself freed reels for a moment as the rush of relief leaves him momentarily light headed. He’s brought back to his senses almost immediately as someone loudly rounds the corner at a hurried pace.

“Pan! Rubin! Thank the gods I found you,” Zsófia’s voice exclaim.

Rubin instantly stiffens, feeling only marginally safer now in the presence of a revenant and a necromancer. His response doesn’t worry Zsófia, it was what she expected from him after all, but Pan’s aloof coldness set her on guard.

“What is going on here?” She asks, trying to keep her voice as steady as possible.

“I was just discussing theology and politics with Rubin,” Pan answers vaguely, still not meeting her gaze, “Can’t say I’ve learned anything about him I like, but it’s good you found us, we’re leaving Verwich. Grab your things from the Inn, I’ll cover our stay. Don’t waste any time, there’s something going on and I’m not confident we’re safe here.”

Zsófia is taken aback by the statement, she’d been entirely wrapped up in expecting to be the one to tell them of the danger that losing that momentum made her feel like she’d hit an unexpected stair. Recovering quickly, she recognised the seriousness in Pan’s eyes, and the nearly perfectly concealed fear in Rubin’s eye’s convinced her to obey now and ask questions afterwards.
Together the trio go the rest of the way through the alley to where the The Valiant Retreat stood and as the two head upstairs to retrieve their things, Pan approaches Lily who was seated by the fire in the empty common room.

“We’re leaving for Capital now, let Yanala know I’ll have some questions for her when I get there.”

Lily looks back at him, seeming to Pan like she was reading him as easily as she would a book, “Something happened?”

“Yeah, I don’t know what yet, though I’m sure when I see Yana she’ll have known all along and just felt I didn’t need to know.”

“Sounds like her.” Lily admits with a sympathetic smile, “Are you in danger?”

Pan shrugs, “I don’t know why we would be, but yeah, it seems like it.”

She stands and approaches, reaching up she embraces him tightly before letting go and recoiling into a shiver, and looking at him in stern concern, “You’re cold.”

“I got angry, I kept it under control.”

She just stares at him, letting him know she’s not fooled by his deflections but the approaching footsteps from the stairs kill that line of discussion. Joining them in the common room, first Zsófia then shortly after Rubin arrive carrying their packs and Pan’s which he accepts and shoulder’s.

“I’ll catch you next time, Lil. Hopefully then I won’t be rushed out the door so quickly.”

Lily just laughs, “We had you for almost a week, almost a record by my count.”

With that, Pan kisses her lightly on the cheek and leads the others out the door. As they walk in heavy silence, Pan looks up at the sun. It was later in the day than he’d usually like to start this journey, but staying longer just didn’t feel like an option.


That brings the Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods to it’s end, the next installment will be the first of the as yet unnamed third segment of the Blood and Lies series. I’m thinking something like “Revelations under Iron”, but I haven’t decided yet.

Featured art this time was Hunchback by Michael Humphries and as usual, I enjoyed writing this. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.

– Zairron